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Cuban Music Lesson: Albita Rodriguez

Get ready to be schooled, asere. It’s time for a Cuban music lesson! Learn to tell your cha cha cha from your mambo without leaving your couch. Put on your dancing shoes, guayaberas, park your 57 Chevy, light up that Habano, and pay attention.

A lot of Cuban artists have made their way to the U.S. since 1959. It’s not really a surprise. Besides the whole living under Communism sucking thing, you aren’t going to make much of a living as a singer in Cuba. Usually you have you play music at night and work in some other job during the day to make ends meet. This was especially true after Cuba’s sugardaddy the U.S.S.R went under. Albita Rodriguez saw which way the commie wind was blowing in 1989 and split. Lucky for us.

Albita was born in Havana in 1962, the daughter of two famous Cuban guajiro singers. She grew up surrounded by music and was performing by the time she was a teenager. She gained a steady reputation inside Cuba for her amazing musical talent and showmanship. Albita’s voice is unique, to say the least. It isn’t soft and melodious like Omara Portuondo or as powerful as Celia Cruz. It is low and sweet, both androgynous and sexy. Onstage she is captivating, even though she is 5 foot nothing. In 1988, Albita released her first album in Cuba “Habrá Música Guajira” and started touring in Latin America. When she and her band got to Columbia, they used the opportunity to get the heck out of Cuba. They made their way to Ciudad Juarez and crossed the border. Once her dancing feet touched American soil, she and her whole band defected to the United States.

Once she got to Miami, it didn’t take long for Cuban impresario Emilio Estefan to smell money and sign Albita to his label. Her first U.S. album, “No Se Parece A Nada, went multi-platinum. Since then, she’s won three Grammys and an Emmy and sold millions of records. Albita is a card carrying lesbian, and has become a well known gay rights activist. There are a lot of Albita drag queens in South Beach, my friends.  It’s even rumored that she once had a fling with Madonna back when Madonna didn’t look like an over-muscled jackal. Albita’s songs have appeared in several films, including the Cheyenne/Venessa Williams schlockfest “Dance With Me”, where she had a cameo. She also starred in the Broadway version of “The Mambo Kings” in 2005. Currently, Albita host the show “La Descarga Con Albita” on Mega TV. She interviews guest, sings, and is generally…well…Albita. If you ever get a chance to see her, do it. She likes to play small intimate venues to be close to her fans. If you invite her over for a drink, she’ll probably take you up on it.

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